ADAM William (1751–1839), politician & advocate. ALS 1798 to John Adam


ADAM William (1751–1839), politician & advocate. ALS 1798 to John Adam

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ADAM William (1751–1839), politician and advocate. Autograph letter signed to John Adam Esq, Patna, care of Henry Trail Esq Calcutta, folio, 4 sides including an address panel (with several interesting postal franks), East Grinstead Assizes, 18th March 1798, reporting on family affairs beginning with John's brother Charles "I cannot let the event of Charles’s arrival pass over wh'out notice.  You may easily conceive our surprise & Delight at seeing him – and seeing him in size, look, manner, & intellect, quite a Captain – When He arrived Lord Spencer seemed very unmanageable, and I own I never in my life have felt more uneasiness & vexation than at the thoughts of his being thrown back.  The Duke of York interfered with a Degree of Zeal & Friendship which I never can forget.  And I have now the pleasure to learn than his interference will be effectual:  And that in a very short time Chas will be again Master & Commander .......... [he] returned to this situation of Lt. with an attention to his duty wch shows him fit for great things" and explaining the "flaw in his original commission". Of John's brother William he says "Wm leaves Charter House at Easter – and will go to Edinburgh for a year at least I think.  I took Mama & Tat to Maidstone assizes with him .........He told, when he came home, that Papa had sent a man to Jail for two years for saying the Soldiers were Rascals – The fact being that I prosecuted a man for circulating a Hand Bill among the Soldiers desiring them to imitate the Sailors – He was convicted, & Buller sentenced him to two years imprisonment", and of his brother Frederick "Fredk. has got 6 months leave of absence we shall get him off from joining till  next year – By that time he will be able Bodied & well educated.  He is a very fine fellow astonishingly amusing but a little volatile". William also reports on matters relating to the family's Blair Adam estates, and various plantings that have been undertaken. The letter has multiple folds; a small piece of paper torn from the first page border (affects about 3 words); a hole from the broken seal (2 words affected); and a piece of paper torn from the second page border where the seal was once affixed (affects a few words on side 3). 

William Adam (1751–1839) was the son of the Scottish architect John Adam (1721–1792) and Jean Ramsay (1721–1795), and was the nephew of the architects Robert and James Adam. He became an advocate in Scotland in 1773 and was called to the English bar in 1782. In 1777 he married Eleanora  Elphinstone (1749–1808) with whom he had a daughter and five sons, the first of whom was John, the recipient of this letter.

Adam represented a number of constituencies in Parliament throughout his life. In his early political career he took a very hard line on American issues, criticizing Lord North for being too conciliatory before the outbreak of fighting (but was later to support him). Adam particularly disliked Charles James Fox, attacking him verbally in Parliament, and even fighting him in a duel (in 1779). Adam was appointed to the political office of Treasurer of the Ordnance in the period 1780 to 1783. In February 1783 he spoke and voted against peace with the United States. After that, despite his past animosity to Charles James Fox, Adam supported the Fox-North Coalition as the only way to stop Lord North's party becoming politically irrelevant.

Adam was out of parliament between 1794 and 1806 during which time he sought to advance his legal career, was appointed King’s Counsel in 1796, and developed a lucrative practice, specializing at the bar of the Commons and also the Lords. His need for money was considerable because of inherited debts from his father who died in 1792, and by 1808 was forced to borrow money to pay the debts of his eldest son, John, in India.

William’s eldest son John Adam (1779–1825) became an administrator in India, while other siblings mentioned in the letter are Charles Adam (1780-1853) who entered the navy, became an Admiral and First Sea Lord; William George Adam (1781-1839) who became a lawyer; and Frederick William Adam (1784-1853) who served in the army, became a General (he fought at Waterloo), and served as Governor of Madras.

John was educated at Charterhouse School and, following his nomination to a writership in Bengal in 1794, spent a year at Edinburgh University. He arrived in Calcutta in 1796 and spent the greater part of his career there in military and political administration. He was private as well as political secretary to the marquess of Hastings, whom he accompanied in the field during the Anglo-Maratha War of 1817–18. In 1819 Adam took up a seat on the governor-general's council and from January to August 1823 he served as acting governor-general during the interregnum between the administrations of Lord Hastings and Lord Amherst. (ODNB)

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